ATLANTA -- Josh Smith spent most of the fourth quarter cheering on his teammates from the bench.
He was on the court, though, for the biggest play of the game.
After sitting for all but 44 seconds of the final period because of foul trouble, Smith soared through the lane to drop in a missed shot with 0.7 seconds remaining and the Atlanta Hawks won their seventh in a row, beating the Houston Rockets 105-103 Friday night to maintain the NBA's best record.
Marvin Williams scored a season-high 29 points, but it was Smith who came through at the end for the Hawks (11-2).
Carl Landry hit a pair of free throws with 5 seconds left to cap Houston's 11-1 run that tied the game at 103. The Hawks got the ball to Mike Bibby, whose 17-foot jumper bounced off the front of the rim. But Smith flew right down the middle of the lane, grabbed the rebound with both hands and softly put it back in while the Rockets screamed for basket interference.
Replays showed the ball had cleared the cylinder before Smith touched it.
"All I wanted to do was crash the boards," Smith said. "In case he missed, I wanted to be there. I wanted him to make the shot, but I was there for the miss."
Smith went to the bench after picking up his fourth foul with 4:03 left in the third quarter. He returned early in the fourth and lasted only 30 seconds before getting his fifth foul. Back to the bench, where he stayed until the final minute -- long enough to win the game.
Obviously, he was fresher than everyone else on the court. It showed.
"He hustled," Houston's Luis Scola said. "Everyone knows how high he jumps. It was a great play."
Williams had been one of the few disappointments in Atlanta's brilliant start to the season. He had not scored more than 14 points in a game, but he had 13 in the opening quarter and passed his previous high before halftime. He finished 13 of 19 from the field.
"He was phenomenal," Hawks coach Mike Woodson said. "He was solid from beginning to end. We went to him. He continued to make them."
The Hawks needed Williams to come up big with Smith in foul trouble -- he had only nine points in less than 24 minutes -- and Joe Johnson held to 19 points on 6-of-18 shooting after two straight 30-point efforts.
Jamal Crawford added 21 points for the Hawks, while Landry led five Houston players in double figures with 18.
The Hawks improved to 7-0 at Philips Arena, their best start at home since 1997, and snapped the Rockets' two-game winning streak on the road.
Houston outworked the Hawks on the boards much of the night -- getting 20 offensive rebounds -- and had a commanding 29-14 edge in second-chance points. The Rockets led 88-82 with 7 minutes remaining after Aaron Brooks blew right by Johnson for a layup.
"They have a lot of guys who are not very athletic," Smith said. "But they get offensive rebounds. They killed us all night getting offensive rebounds."
Atlanta took over from there, turning up the defensive pressure and ripping off a 13-0 spurt. Brooks finally broke up the run, but Williams had a thunderous jam off a missed shot, a steal set up another dunk by Al Horford and Crawford's falling-down 3-pointer pushed the home team to a 102-92 lead with 2:07 remaining.
"The guys battled back, but we had a bad stretch in the fourth quarter and it cost us," Houston coach Rick Adelman said.
It seemed over, but the pesky Rockets battled back. Kyle Lowry exploded to the hoop, banked it in and was fouled by Williams. The free throw completed the three-point play and pulled Houston to 103-101.
Bibby missed a 3-pointer, Houston called time and got the ball in Brooks' hands. He passed off to Scola, who fumbled it away but watched it go straight to Landry, who drew Horford's sixth foul and calmly made both free throws sandwiched around a Hawks' 20-second timeout.
But Smith made sure Atlanta stayed perfect at home.
"They have the best record in the league," Houston's Trevor Ariza. "If we could have come back and gotten this one, it would have been really big."
In the second quarter, Ariza and Johnson scrambled for a loose ball that wound up bouncing out of bounds along the sideline, not far from the Hawks bench. While the officials briefly conferred to make a call, Ariza pleaded, "I swear to God I didn't touch it." The Rockets got the ball. ... Houston shot just 42 percent but took 14 more shots than the Hawks, who made half their attempts. ... Williams also led the Hawks in rebounding with nine. ... Scola had 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Rockets.
- Dick Bavetta
- Joe Forte
- Derek Richardson